Uncertain in Nepal

Its crisis masks the opportunity to rework the pact between government and the people

Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav's India visit comes at what is perhaps one of the more worrisome moments in the Himalayan state's political journey. After end-May this year, Nepal has been without a constitution and legislature, the interim constitution and the Constituent Assembly both having expired. Nor did Nepal manage to conduct elections in November. Meanwhile, Yadav's efforts to get the political parties to forge a "national unity" government and put a "consensus" prime minister in place of caretaker PM Baburam Bhattarai, have so far come to nought. Not only have the parties failed to resolve their differences, but Bhattarai has also been reluctant to step down, even as his Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist having suffered a formal split recently remains bitterly divided between his loyalists and those of party chief Prachanda.

The political process set in motion in 2006, which India facilitated, has unravelled. The current turmoil obscures the troubled transition which, when Bhattarai became PM, had already seen four PMs between two parties, and repeated extensions of the deadline for the new constitution. Today, as Nepal's major political parties stand discredited in the eyes of the people, India has reason to be concerned. Instability in Nepal has serious implications for its own security. Having reiterated its moral support to President Yadav's initiative, New Delhi must urge Nepal's political actors to resolve the crisis by forming a government that will enjoy greater legitimacy, while making it clear that India will deal with whoever is thrown up by its internal process.

There are, however, limits to India's role in Nepal, and not because of the threat of the expanding presence of China or other players that Nepal's politicians invoke to provoke an Indian reaction. It is up to Nepal's actors to put their house in order and accountability for the current impasse lies solely with them. The hopefulness in the wake of Bhattarai's elevation to premiership and his India visit last year, seems a long time ago now. As in every crisis Nepal has faced since 2006, however, this one too hides an opportunity to return to the constitution-making process and to re-invent it.

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